Throughout the ages, women, especially newly married women, have been bombarded with the same questions: When are you going to start a family? What are you waiting for? I want grandchildren; when will you give them to me? What’s wrong with you that you haven't had children yet?
Sometimes, no matter how badly a woman wants to have a baby, no matter what extremes she goes to to produce one, there is no child on the way and there may never be one.
This realization is never pleasant. It’s a life-changer. It makes every good-natured, well-intentioned baby question seem to cut like a knife and it whittles away at the identity of every woman who craves a child more than she craves water or oxygen. It changes who she is, forever.
There’s been precious little research into the emotional and psychological effects of undergoing the very best treatment for infertility only to have no baby to cradle. To have a woman’s darkest, most dreaded suspicions confirmed by the cold, hard immutable confirmation of state-of-the-art medical science...until now.
Marni Rosner was curious enough to explore how a woman rebuilt her identity after her best attempts at motherhood - natural and medically assisted - failed to produce a much-desired baby. Rosner holds a doctoral degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation titled “Recovery From Traumatic Loss: A Study of Women Living With Children After Infertility,” asked questions that were hard to answer.
Rosner’s research was based on the understanding that motherhood is a time-honored rite of passage. When motherhood doesn’t happen as anticipated, women experience:
- Denial of this fundamental female rite of passage.
- Loss of the life anticipated.
- Loss of control over one’s own life.
- Questioning of one’s womanhood.
- Friendships forever lost or changed.
- Instability in one’s religious foundation.
Once acceptance of infertility was accomplished and the associated experiences were worked through, Rosner’s study participants experienced a state of personal empowerment Rosner dubs “post-traumatic growth.”
In order to achieve post-traumatic growth, Rosner finds a woman must come to terms with her infertility. She must replace denial with acknowledgment, grief, and integration. Her infertility must become an accepted chapter in her life’s story.
Even though lingering emotional pain may remain, most of the women in the Rosner study eventually had integrated loss, re-imagined their lives, and began embracing life’s possibilities once again but it took several years to come to terms with this new normal for them, where infertility no longer defined who they are as women.
Source: DiSanto, Jill. “Penn Researcher Looks at Infertility’s Impact on Women.” Penn News. The University of Pennsylvania. Jun 15, 2012. Web. Dec 11, 2013.